Today, 2016, race is seemingly a common topic in both conversation and media. Some times race is in a negative light while other times it may be in a more positive one. Because of this unpredictability, race is more of a rough terrain to tackle when speaking about it outside of your own group of people.
For some, race may not be something even thought about in a day. For others, it's an every single day issue. I want to say now that I am not trying to speak for the greater populace. I am not speaking on behalf of all mixed race peoples. I'm speaking for me, for my own view, and what it means to me to be of two different racial backgrounds, two different cultural belief systems, and two different "looks" in a world that forces us to identify as one.
My mother is Native American, my father is German, Irish, and French - or what I refer to as white. Like many people my age or near it, my parents didn't stay together. So I was raised by my mother. I was raised in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. I was raised as the white girl from the rez. The White girl. But wait, I came from a Native American mom, did I not? I was raised speaking Lakota, participating in and learning and growing from our cultural ceremonies and praying to our 'Creator.' But I was still the white girl from the rez.
So what is a half breed then anyway? It's a world of two worlds which until more recent times wasn't even considered possible. It still isn't if we're being honest. It's looking like one person and feeling like another. It's constantly having to explain why my eyes are slightly tilted, my skin and eyes are lighter and why there's freckles on my nose. It's not knowing if you're 'allowed' to identify as a race you don't look like even though it's literally all you know. It's a constant conflict of identity within because you know who you are, but not always what the world thinks you are. It's going to a protest for Black Lives Matter and looking like another white person trying to be one of those 'good' white people**. It's having an entirely different perception of the term "White Girl" when you've spent the last 22 years looking up to a mother who is brown. Every little girl thinks the world of their mother for at LEAST a portion of their life, and in my case, 100% of it. My mother is a Native American Queen, and I strive to be nothing less than her.
I'm not saying people with light skin are bad people. No person is good or bad based on their exterior tint. But with this constant conflict of identities, comes the desire to investigate who I am - on both sides. If we're continuing to be honest, white people don't have the best historical reputation. Before you click the red 'x' in the corner, hear me out. It was Native Americans, African Americans, essentially all cultures of Mexico and most of Central America (and more, but since I live in the US, I'm keeping it closer to home for the sake of length) that were robbed, raped, killed, and assimilated by the white Western World. "But that was how many years ago? Get over it." To me, that statement is like telling a Veteran of our US Military to 'get over' 9/11, or the 8000+ soldiers brought back to our soil in bags. It's just not something I should say. So as a Native American, it should not be said to me either.
Even if it were to be justifiably said, lets look at today. I live in a world where people are judged, criticized, vastly underestimated, doubted, ridiculed, shot, forgotten, and sought out by authorities simply based on their exterior tint. I also live in the same world where it's okay to protest people of color's sheer existence outside of Black Churches or Mosques; where it's okay to be affiliated with White Power Groups, but shunned if you're a part of Black Lives Matter; where it's okay to build pipelines through Treatied Native American lands, but not okay to silently kneel during the National Anthem. I'm aware not every shade is cookie cuttered into these sides, and not everyone is proud of the white history. But JUST like how white people may be becoming fatigued by the judgment of the past, people of color have been very fatigued by the treatment of the skin they were born with.
It is because of this fatigue that I've become accustomed to being embarrassed by my light skin. Calling me "White girl" isn't stating the obvious, it's insulting to me and my character***. I do not wish to be grouped with them not only because of who I am on the inside and the beliefs and culture I practice, but because I do not want to be affiliated with a group of people that take and take and take. "You're grouping an entire group of people based on occurrences in history when not all of them are like that." True. But is that not what is being done every single day for the rest of the entire world that is not white?
It's this argument that we seem to hear about nearly daily that is what it is to be of mixed race. Except the argument is within a single being instead of between two. One side is never satisfied by the existence of the other. One, if not both, is always angry and maybe even helpless because there doesn't seem to be a single answer, or outlet, or end in sight.
There may be some mixtures of people that wish to identify as white but look black or Latino/a, or whatever else - but because of the society we live in, we all must choose one and for most of us, that choice is made for us by what people see on the outside.
No side will ever win until it comes together. But in the world I live in right now, in 2016, there's no sign of that anytime soon - anywhere. Unfortunately, that may mean no sign of that in me either.
** There is nothing wrong with being a good (race) person allying with another. But as history has shown, you must prove yourself if you're of another race. More times than not, white people are allowed to "ally" in any form they please - even if it means making the situation about them, when it was never about them to begin with. (ALL Lives Matter is a superb example of this)
*** I'm aware of the privilege that comes with the shade of my skin. I do not want to be perceived as spoiled and unhappy with what I've been given when it's obvious the two worlds are not the same. This article is merely to show, or attempt to show, the battle within. The ongoing walking of a thin line between two worlds when in reality this is a single world for many.
Published by Tiana Wilson